Jeff Sheehan: Bridging theory and practice when implementing a CX strategy

On this episode of Conversation: CX, Jeff Sheehan,  CX author of Customer Experience Management Field Manual and Principal CX Advisor at JS Consulting, shares his insight into building a high-functioning CX program while combining both theory and practice and the use of data:
- When designing your own customer experience program, what priorities should your business focus on
- How CX can be connected to business value in concrete ways
- How do you turn customer insights into real improvements

About Jeff : 

Jeff Sheehan is a CX practitioner, author, and active member of the global CX community. He has been serving clients for over 25 years, with extensive experience in customer strategy and digital transformation management. Jeff is also the author of a CX Management Field Manual published in 2021 (Boston Business Books)

More info:

Jeff Sheehan's LinkedIn profile

Jeff Sheehan's Book 

Interview's transcript:

You published your first book this year, “CX Management Field Manual”. Where should leaders start when designing their CX program?

That's a great question, and you have to start by knowing what you want to intentionally do with your CX management program. There's so much research that proved that customer experience management can add value to the business with customer loyalty and customer advocacy and all these other things that help business grow and be profitable. But very little of it tells you how to do that, so you know that was one of the intentions of the book, to sort of lay out how. The starting point is to figure out what you want to do. In the book I talk about, “the mission”, where you sort of have to define, decide and design your CX program. And when it comes to defining what customer means to you, there's different operating models and business models where the customer is used as a word, but the definition of it isn't so clear. And then deciding what you want to do, do you want to have superior customer service that's reactive, do want to use your data and really know your customer and be predictive, or do you want to be like a luxury brand and really personalize your customer experience. So really get clear about what your approach is going to be and then design it. You begin designing that kind of customer experience management program so that you can deliver on those intentions. And what I say in the book and what I truly firmly believe, is you don't need a customer experience strategy, you have enough strategy already. You have a business strategy, you have a marketing strategy, brand strategy. What you need for a customer experience management program is to help deliver on those strategies. So I think of CX as a -train that rides the rails. And one rail is your business strategy and one rail is your brand strategy, and CX is going to help to deliver on those things. So if you pull that all altogether, which I attempt to do in the first chapter in the book, I think that's the beginning point, because everything flows from there. Things like the metrics, the things that you measure, the benchmark scores that you used to compare your performance against the past performance of your own or industry or competitor. Everything sort of flows once you have an intentional, purposely built CX management program.

So, on this topic, could you actually give us some concrete actions or outcomes that can be taken to connect customer experience improvements to business value?

Yeah, so I'm a big fan of operational definition. So you have to understand business value from a customer perspective. Too often in business we design processes, and we call them journeys. They're not journeys, they're the things we impose on customers, and some of those are very good and some of them are horrendous. You bump into them, and it's like they're clearly not designed with you or me in mind. They're designed based on the limitations of a system, based on someone's interpretation of compliance with regulation or something they have to comply with. But defining value through your customer's eyes. And there are a lot of ways to learn that, to know that you can talk to your sales team, you can talk to your customers, you can really figure out what is the customer's value and then do more of that. The other side of that coin is there's the thing called the value irritant matrix that was mentioned in a book called The Best Service is No Service. Terrific book if you haven't read it. It's a great book, but it's a quadrant where you sort of categorize things that add value to the customer or add to the company, and the sweet spot is now to focus on the things that are valuable, the customer's invaluable to the company. As an example, you know sales or converting clicks into purchases or renewals or sort of growth-oriented things, customers are looking for something they want to buy so make it easy to buy, that's a mutually beneficial outcome.

Customer experience is becoming increasingly digital. What’s your vision of online customer excellence, especially, of the human/digital balance?

That is the million-dollar question, and I think a lot of businesses are wrestling with answering that. For example, here in Ireland, the CX company that I'm working for, they do an annual state of CX survey. It spans about 170, some odd brands across the 11 industry sectors, and one of the things we saw for 2021 when the report came out in October was one of those emotional drivers that improved because of digital. You get me, meaning empathy, and you know me, meaning personalization. And it's I think, because it's connected to this lack of human interaction in processes that require it. So as an example, there are certain bank functions you can just do through the mobile app or website, check on your balance for example. You don't need to make a call and wait in a queue and do the security questions just to find out how much money you have. The banks have all made it very easy to digitally figure that out. But if you're a first time homeowner who wants to fulfill the dream of homeownership for your family or your couple, you want to have a family, you want to live in a certain area because of the schools and all those things. You apply for a mortgage and here in Ireland, you do an advanced sort of qualification that allows you to go out and house hunt. And then the other part of that mortgage process is all the other paperwork and all the other conversation. So there's only so much of that you can automate, and some banks are trying to automate everything and remove people. But customers don't react well to it. A lot of customers want a personal relationship, they want a conversation, and what we're seeing banks do is like what we're doing here with this platform. I think iAdvize does this, but where you can be in the middle of a digital process, and then you know touch a button and say: you know I'd like to talk to somebody and there's a live agent on your screen, you can interact with and ask your questions and sort of get the best of both worlds: that digital when you want it and that human interaction when you need it. I think the quarantine has forced a lot of businesses to become digital, with your restaurant, with your takeout business or your retailer with your online fulfillment, all of it. But it's also made clear, at least here in Ireland, people really are expecting to have a human connection somewhere. So it's just kind of figuring out like what can you fully digitize and leave alone for self-service, and how can you have that sort of hybrid delivery model where you have people that can intervene at the right time?

How do you recommend turning customer insight into actions to improve the experience?

Another excellent question. I think you have to define what an insight is. I think you know my experience has been working with clients. There's data and then there's meaningful data and then there's an insight, and you really have to figure out what you're going to call an insight. And you know an NPS score, for example, of 57% is not an insight, but an NPS score that rose 20% to 57% after a promotional campaign that's a bit of an insight right. So really defining what an insight is, is an essential first step. Then what do you do about it? I mean, in my book the biggest chapter in the book discusses listening, learning and acting and making whatever you're calling an insight, and then answering the question: what now? What to do with? So you know a lot of business, a lot of organizations hand over their insight to the business without a full context, without a full sort of story around. And I think packaging any insight for action, you have to speak the business. And I think that's where the CX leaders need to partner and collaborate and really understand who they're supporting. So that they understand what the motivations are, what the incentives are, what the parameters are for an insight to be effective, to sort of decentralized execution model. Now in those organizations where CX is very centralized, and the insight is determined, is deemed, actionable, and they're going to do the action. What we're seeing many times is there is not enough ROI calculated around that like, what's it going to cost us to do this? And what are we? What are we going to do? What's our yield? What is going to sell? What are we going to start doing or stop doing? So it's a bit of a messy cooking process, to kind of figure out what an insight is, then, what you’re going to do with it and of course you're working within the framework of your business model. But I think if you understand what insights are and there's clarity around how the action will be taken, you're well ahead of a lot of other folks in terms of a CX program that delivers a consequential outcome.

Any other favorite learnings or anecdotes from the book?

There's one thing I'd like to talk about, and I put it in the book because I wanted to, but then I realize it's something you don't read much about. I mentioned it actually in the book twice and one of those times I called it time to target. I talk about the idea of time in a CX program. There's a tempo, and I'm sure as a tech startup, it’s kind of quick because you're trying to grow and add customers and add revenue. As opposed to a more mature organization that's a little bit more deliberate about managing risk and making decisions and things like that. But there is that aspect of time, and I think that's one of the things CX leaders really need to tap into. What is the culture's response to time and pace and tempo? Because it's going to affect how you're viewed as adding value. If you're not doing enough in the right period of time, at the right pace, you might not be seen as a contributor. On the other hand, if you're trying to do too much at once, the culture might not be able to absorb that much change or that much action on insights. It's interesting, and I've gotten some feedback from readers about that point about time, that there is a strategic CX time. You know where you are looking to shift an organization in some way towards being more customer-focused and evolving and improving. And then there's tactical CX time. The whole book is written around the idea that a customer experience management program is a continuous improvement program, and time is a very important consideration for that.


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